Old World charm of Hill Capital vanishing


When in Kandy, I like to walk around, meet people ask them Kohomada (How are you), look at the Lake and just wander and wonder.  It does not tire me because it is in Kandy that I go down memory lane and think of the good old school days. It was too far for me to walk to Peradeniya, and I decided to take the old road passing Lyons cafe where we had a good Biryani then.

It was my eldest brother Lakdas (Loku Aiya) along with his girlfriend Lakshmi (now wife of several decades) from Wattegama, who first introduced me to Lyons after a nice Hindi movie at the Regal.  It was a wonderful day I spent with them as a schoolboy. I went past Girls High School (yes memories are made of these girls’ schools though Mahamaya in Kandy and Bishop’s College in Colombo continues to be my favourite girls’ schools). I wondered where the famous Banda Tuitory is now. Later, I was told that they had closed it a long time back. 

Regal Cinema didn't look regal at all to me. Kingswood boys were coming out of the school at the time.  I also saw several new schools in Kandy adding to the menace of traffic in the city. How come there is no planning in Sri Lanka? There is a school and a temple in every corner. Huh, with all that, ask anyone who lives in Kandy or studied in Kandy the feeling they get when entering Kandy, passing the gardens in Peradeniya.  It is both happiness and sadness. There is no romance in Kandy without Pera, Hantana and the Mahaweli. 

Dr. Thilak Bandara at the Peradeniya University warmly welcomed me. We had made preparations to do four programmes for Sirasa TV, News 1st, Pathikada. Two with the Vice Chancellor, Prof Upul Dissanayake at his official residence ‘The Lodge’, made famous by the founder of the University, Sir Ivor Jennings, and the other two on the romance of Hantana and the University of Peradeniya, at the foothills of Hantana. The following day was to be a holiday and we wanted to record it at peace, without any disturbances.  After visiting ‘The Lodge’ for a discussion with the Vice Chancellor, Thilak invited me to lunch at the Peradeniya Rest House.  I have always enjoyed my meals at the Pera Rest House and even stayed there. Those were wonderful quiet times surrounded by nature.  However, things have changed.  I realized that peace at the Peradeniya Rest House had vanished. Who stole it or who gave it away?  I think gone are the days where one could sit in peace at the verandah of the Pera Rest House.  I turned back not wanting to have my lunch there.   

Having parked the car in Buwelikada, I walked to the city. It was a difficult walk with no room for pedestrians. Buses had blocked even the pavements. It   was scary to cross the road. I wouldn't know how the boys at Dharmaraja manage with such traffic and unruly motorists. It is regrettable that the Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) doesn't have a proper vehicle park; huge buses that brings pilgrims are parked along the road. What is the Mayor, Governor and even the Diyawadane Nilame doing? Why can’t the people of Kandy walk in peace? What did Buddha preach? Buddha said not to harass anyone. Do the authorities care at all? However difficult it was, I love my Kandy.   

There were new restaurants and hotels in Kandy. The old ones have become modern. Some had new names. Our favourites at the time were Bake House, Devon Cafe, Muslim Hotel and Chinese Restaurant. I walked in to many places and they had menus I couldn't choose from. Far too expensive for a Street Walker and a driver. People in Kandy were not in a hurry and they walked freely. I could still walk slowly and look around. I think Queen’s Hotel had lost its class and glory. We couldn't afford Queen’s Hotel then and our favourite was the side Queens - (Vijaya Cafe) at the time, where we had a good Thosai feed as we called it then.  Having walked into several restaurants and cafes, I ended up again at the Devon Cafe to have a peaceful and of course a good meal. Devon Cafe   is clean and the rice and curry isn't expensive. Service wasn't bad in comparison to other places. After a good meal, I walked down the streets of Kandy.  I looked for the old newspaper sellers. They were not to be seen. Maybe I was late.  I walked up to the statue of the People’s General, Late Denzil Lakshman Kobbekaduwa. He stood still. General looked sad. He must be saddened by what’s happening to our three forces and the witch-hunt against them. I looked at the good General and questioned …"General,  don’t you think you died in vain?" He wouldn't answer me. I thought his face said it all. As I walked back to Buwelikada, passing the Kandy Lake, I looked up to the Kandy skies and asked  "Could you tell me what two great sons of Trinity in Kandy,  Lakshman Kadirgamar and Denzil Lakshman Kobbekaduwa must be thinking today?" 

It didn't take long for the skies in Kandy to answer. Rains came down. The Devas cried. I ran for shelter in the Kandyan rain. 

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